Union Says Gov’t Is Blocking Arbitration Rights

A dispute between Hotel Cam­bo­diana management and its  union members remains unsettled after months of talks with the Ministry of Labor and Social Af­fairs, renewing some workers’ concerns that the ministry is hindering workers’ rights to fair arbitration, union officials said Sun­day.

The dismissal of 64 Cambodi­ana employees in May and June crowned a list of complaints that union President Ly Korm said testify to management’s un­will­ing­ness to bargain in good faith and the ministry’s unwillingness to facilitate disputes.

Ly Korm in January began a campaign of complaints with the Labor Ministry, claiming that the hotel does not pay workers a fair percentage of the service charge and has refused to negotiate with workers because they attended negotiating sessions represented by legal counsel. Cambodiana management also demanded an apology from the union for al­legedly slandering the hotel by complaining to the Labor Minis­try about its conditions, said un­ion Vice President Lim Hun Pov.

Talks held June 20 between management and union representatives failed to resolve the complaints of 64 dismissed senior employees, leading a Labor Min­is­try inspector to suggest that the case go to Phnom Penh Munici­pal Court rather than the Arbit­ration Council, where collective disputes are heard.

Hotel Cambodiana management did not renew workers’ contracts in May and June to compensate for financial strains in­curred by severe acute respiratory syndrome’s effect on the tour­ism industry, Resident Manager Pierre Bernard said last month. Ly Korm said the workers, who have worked for the hotel for between eight and 12 years, were dismissed without just cause and are owed more compensation than they were paid.

Bernard said Sunday he was too tired to comment.

Ly Korm said he is concerned about the future of the case.

Kim Ratana, deputy chief of labor inspectors at the Ministry of Labor, said the case should be handled in court rather than the Arbitration Council, a body of judges representing employers, workers and the government. “It is a personal dispute, not a collective dispute,” Kim Ratana said.

Jason Judd of the American Cen­ter for International Solidarity said the Cambodiana case meets all the definitions of a collective dispute.

“It’s silly to say that what happened to 64 people is 64 violations of the law,” Judd said.

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